Springtime as I experience it is a time to think. Winter is a time of eating and staying warm but as the weather changes one is not so hurried by gusts of freezing wind and so one has a moment to stand on a sidewalk, to look at the blossom, to speak with someone new who also has a moment to stand still after the long winter’s march from building to car to building.
I made a new friend over the winter months. T arrived on Main Street at the end of November having been made redundant and leaving Baltimore where his wife lived. He had grown up in Annapolis in a very different era, when Downtown was full of African American businesses and the community wasn’t hidden away in backstreets and suburban developments like a shameful secret. He told me and my friends stories of Annapolis which made our eyes wide. The shoe-store which would receive African American customers only at the side door, or the time when the city nearly descended into rioting were it not for the demonstration of friendship between Pip and Zastrow who walked the streets together when white people and black people struggled to see a peaceful future. T maintained an inner confidence, yet sometimes when he was more exhausted he would share with his friends the pain of feeling rejected by his family, the community where he grew up and the passers by on the street who would call the police to deal with him. He became a personality in Downtown Annapolis, singing at the Open Mic nights and Piano Bar for tips; one could ask every doorman on Main Street and they would know T. It made him glow with pride that he could sing and be valued for the fact that he had something beautiful to offer. Today he left the city to go to rehab and I am glad for him. He had become a part of the Christian community in Annapolis and he gave us so many opportunities to grow in our understanding of love.
There are others who are known to the Christian community. Not all find a way out of their situation and some do not want it. I was challenged by a friend that my desire to see an individual’s situation improve, by connecting them with rehab or other resources, was becoming a threshold of relationship. I was guilty of making my love dependent on their performance to my expectations. I was angry at having this placed in front of me yet it didn’t take long for me to realise that he was right. Whether I give someone the time of day, share a meal with them or more must never be because I deem them worthy of attention. Why? Solely because Jesus chooses to see those acts of service as worship to him, and my refusal to serve is an act of rebellion against the King of Love.
This is a hard fact to accept: That an act of love for someone unlovely will scarcely ripple the currents of poverty in a city. The community of Christians I have met here help me keep in mind that such widespread change is not my burden. I have only to care for the one in front of me.
This experience has led me to join initiatives which seek to enable these kinds of small relationships to start. I invited a dozen people from Downtown Hope to come out at 4:30AM on a Wednesday morning in January to meet the homeless who were sleeping in downtown Annapolis in the middle of winter. A couple of weeks ago we were invited to be part of Homeless Resource Day which pairs those at high risk with a host who will spend as long as they need helping that individual find all the resources they need to make steps away from homelessness. I was invited to lobby at the state-wide level in the name of the church for affordable housing policies for the most at-risk populations. I offer my skills to the Coalition to End Homelessnesswhose major goal is to see the homeless connected to communities of people who can walk with them through all the difficulties they are facing and all defeat those things which trap them in poverty. The ability to understand that the inadequacy of my actions is no hurdle to it being an offering to God has radically shaped how I show and tell others about that work.
I am thankful to those who have been faithful in contributing to my living costs and supporting me in prayer. I consider it a sacred privilege to be supported in a way that I can offer my life for the benefit of the church and the city in ways which are different than if I was in a workplace setting. I have been able to create resources for our church community as well as jump into the founding of a nonprofit which seeks to help people form transformative relationships with the city’s most vulnerable residents.
Most importantly of all, your support enables me to be available to share the love of God, and that is deeply humbling.
As always please write to me and ask questions. I love to talk as you well know.